Pimp. By Robert Beck aka Iceberg Slim. Adnotated without permission. Chapter 1 -- Torn from the nest.
Her name was Maude and she Georgied me around 1921. I was only three years old. Mama told me about it, and always when she did her rage and indignation would be as strong and as emotional perhaps as at the time when she had surprised her, panting and moaning at the point of orgasm with my tiny head wedged between her ebony thighs, her massive hands viselike around my head.
Mama worked long hours in a hand laundry and Maude had been hired as a babysitter at fifty cents a day. Maude was a young widow. Strangely, she had a reputation in Indianapolis, Indianai as a devout Holy Rollerii.
I have tried through the years to remember her face but all I can rememberiii is the funky ritual. I vaguely remember, not her words but her excitement when we were alone.
I remember more vividly the moist, odorous darkness and the bristle-like hairs tickling my face and most vividly I can remember my panic, when in the wild moment of her climax, she would savagely jerk my head even tighter into the hairy maw.
I couldn't get a breath of air until like a huge black balloon she would exhale with a whistling whoosh and relax, limply freeing my head.
I remember the ache of the strain on my fragile neck muscles, and especially at the root of my tongue.
Mama and I had come to Indianapolis from Chicago, where since the time when she was six months pregnant, my father had begun to show his true colors as an irresponsible, white-spats-wearing bum.
Back in that small town in Tennessee, their home town, he had stalked the beautiful virgin and conned her into marriage. Her parents, with vast relief, gave their blessing and wished them the best in the promised land up North in Chicago.
Mama had ten brothers and sisters. Her marriage meant one less mouth to feed.
My father's father was a skilled cook and he passed his know how to my father, who shortly after getting to Chicago scored a chef's job at a huge middle-class hotel. Mama was put on as a waitress.
Mama told me that even with both of them working twelve hours a day, six days a week they couldn't save a nickel or buy furniture or anything.
My idiot father had come to the big city and gone sucker wild. He couldn't stay away from the high-yellow whores with their big asses and bitch-dog sexual antics.iv What they didn't con him out of he lost in the cheat crap joints.
At the hotel one night he vanished from the kitchen. Mama finally found him thrusting mightily into a half-white waitress lying on a sack of potatoes in a storage room, with her legs locked around his back.v
Mama said she threw everything she could lift at them. They were unemployed when they walked away from the shambles.vi
After my birth he got worse and had the stupid gall to suggest to Mama that I be put on a Catholic Church doorstep. Mama naturally refused so he hurled me against the wall in disgust.
I survived it and he left us, his white spats flashing and his derby hat at a rakish angle.
It was the beginning of a bitter winter. Mama packed pressing irons and waving combs into a small bag and wrapped me warmly in blankets and set out into the bleak, friendless city to ring door bells, the bag in one arm and I in the other.
Her pitch was something like this, "Madam, I can make your hair curly and beautiful. Please give me a chance. For fifty cents, that's all, I will make your hair shine like new money."
At this point in the pitch Mama told me she would slip the blanket aside to bare my wee big-eyed face. The sight of me in her arm on a subzero day was like a charm. She managed to make a living for us.
That spring, with new friends of Mama's we left Chicago for Indianapolis. We stayed there until nineteen twenty-four, when a fire gutted the hand laundry where Mama worked.
There were no jobs in Indianapolis for Mama and for six months we barely made it on the meager savings. We were penniless and with hardly any food when a tall black angel visiting relatives in Indianapolis came into our lives.
He fell instantly in love with my lissome beautiful mother. His name was Henry Upshaw, and I guess I fell as hard for him as he fell for Mama.
He took us back to Rockford, Illinois with him where he owned a cleaning and pressing shop, the only Negro business in downtown Rockford.
In those tough depression times a Negro in his position was the envy of most Negro men.
Henry was religious, ambitious, good and kind. I often wonder what would have happened to my life if I had not been torn from him.
He treated Mama like she was a princess, anything she wanted he got for her. She was a fashion plateix all right.
Every Sunday when we all three went to church in the gleaming black Dodge we were an outstanding sight as we walked down the aisle in our fresh neat clothing.x
Only the few Negro lawyers and physicians lived as well, looked as well. Mama was president of several civic clubs. For the first time we were living the good life.
Mama had a dream. She told it to Henry. Like the genie of the lamp he made it a reality.
It was a four stall, opulent beauty shop. Its chrome gleamed in the black-and-gold motif. It was located in the heart of the Negro business section and it flourished from the moment its doors opened.
Her clientele was for the most part whores, pimps, and hustlers from the sprawling red light district in Rockford.xi They were the only ones who always had the money to spend on their appearance.
The first time I saw Steve he was sitting getting his nails manicured in the shop. Mama was smiling into his handsome olive-tinted face as she buffed his nails.
I didn't know when I first saw him that he was the pin-striped snake who would poison the core of our lives.xii
I certainly had no inkling that [was to be the] last day at the shop as live billows of steam hissed from the old pressing machine each time Henry slammed its lid down on a garment.xiii
Jesus! It was hot in that little shop, but I loved every minute of it. It was school-vacation time for me and every summer I worked in the shop all day, every day helping my stepfather.
That day as I saw my reflection on the banker's expensive black shoes, I was perhaps the happiest black boy in Rockford. As I applied the sole dressing I hummed my favorite tune "Spring Time in the Rockies."
The banker stepped down from the shine stand, stood for a moment as I flicked lint from his soft, rich suit, then with a warm smile he pressed an extravagant fifty-cent piece into my hand and stepped out into the broiling street.
Now I whistled my favorite tune, shines were only a dime, what a tip.
I didn't know at the time that the banker would never press another coin into my hand, that for the next thirty-five years this last day would be remembered vividly as the final day of real happiness for me.
I would press five-dollar bills into the palms of shine boys. My shoes would be handmade, would cost three times as much as the banker's shoes, but my shoes, though perfectly fitted would be worn in tension and fear.xiv
There was really nothing out of the ordinary that day. Nothing during that day that I heard or saw that prepared me for the swift, confusing events that over the weekend would slam my life away from all that was good to all that was bad.
Now, looking back remembering that last day in the shop as clearly as if it were yesterday, my stepfather, Henry, was unusually quiet. My young mind couldn't grasp his worry, his heart break.
Even I, a ten year old, knew that this huge, uglyxv, black man who had rescued Mama and me from actual starvation back in Indianapolis loved us with all of his great, sensitive heart.
I loved Henry with all my heart. He was the only father I had ever really known.
He could have saved himself an early death from a broken heart if instead of falling so madly in love with Mama he had run as fast as he could away from herxvi. For him, she was brown-skin murder in a size-twelve dressxvii.
That last night at eight o'clock Dad and I flicked the shop's lights out as always at closing.
In an emotion muffled voice he spoke my name "Bobby."
I turned toward him and looked up into his face tense and strained in the pale light from the street lamp. I was confused and shaken when he put his massive hands on my shoulders and drew me to him very tightly just holding me in this strange desperate way.
My head was pressed against his belt buckle. I could barely hear his low, rapid flow of pitiful words.
He said, "Bobby, you know I love you and Mama, don't you?"
His stomach muscles were cording, jerking against my cheek. I knew he was going to burst into tears.
I said as I squeezed my arms around his waist, "Yes, Daddy, yes, Daddy. We love you too, Daddy. We always will, Daddy."
He was trembling as he said, "You and Mama wouldn't ever leave me? You know Bobby, I ain't got nobody in the world but you two. I just couldn't go on if you left me alone."xviii
I clung tightly to him and said, "Don't worry Daddy, we'll never leave you, I promise, honest, Daddy."
What a sight we must have been, the six-foot-six black giant and the frail little boy holding on to each other for dear life, crying there in the darkness.xix
I tell you when we finally made it to the big black Dodge and were riding home my thoughts were turning madly.
Yes, poor Henry's fears had foundation. Mama had never loved my stepfather. This kind, wonderful man had only been a tool of convenience.xx She had fallen in love with the snake all right.
His plan was to cop Mama and make it to the Windy. The dirty bastard knew I would be excess baggage, but the way Mama was gulping his con, he figured he could get rid of me later.
Only after I had become a pimp years later would I know Steve's complete plot, and how stupid he really was.xxi
Here this fool had a smart, square broad with a progressive square-john husband, infatuated with him. Her business was getting better all the time.
Her sucker husband was blindly in love, and the money from his business was wide open to her. If Steve had been clever he could have stayed right there on top of things and bled a big bankroll from the businesses in a couple of years.
Then he could have pulled Mama out of there and with a big bankroll he could have done anything with her, even turned her out.
I tell you she was that hot for him. She had to be insane over the asshole to walk away from all that potential with only twenty-five hundred in cash.xxii
Steve blew it in a Georgia-skin gamexxiii within a week after we got to Chicago.
I have wished to Christ, in four penitentiaries, that the lunatic lovers had left me in Rockford with Henry when they split.xxiv
One scene in my life I can never forget and that was that morning when Mama had finished packing our clothes and Henry lost his inner fight for his pride and dignity.
He fell down on his knees and bawled like a scalded child, pleading with Mama not to leave him, begging her to stay. He had welded his arms around her legs, his voice hoarse in anguish, as he whimpered his love for us.
His agonized eyes walled up at her as he wailed, "Please don't leave me. You are sure to kill me if you do. I ain't done nothing. If I have, forgive me."
I will never forget her face, as cold as an executioner's, which she was, as she kicked and struggled loose from him.
Then with an awful grin on her face she lied and said, "Henry, Honey, I just want to get away for a while. Darling, we'll be back."
In his state she was lucky he hadn't killed her and me, and buried us in the backyard.xxv
As the cab drove us away to the secret rendezvous with Steve sitting in his oldxxvi Model T, I looked back at Henry on the porch, his chest heaving as tears rolled down his tortured face.
There were too many wheels within wheels, too much hurt for me to cry. After a blank time and distance we got to Chicago. Steve had vanished and Mama was telling me in a drabxxvii hotel room that my real father was coming over to see us, and to remember that Steve was her cousin.
Steve was stupid all right, but cunning, if you get what I mean.xxviii
Mama, at Steve's instruction, weeks before, had gotten in contact with my father through a hustler brother of Mama's in Chicago.xxix
When my father came through the hotel room door reeking of cologne and dressed to kill, all I could think was what Mama had told me about that morning when this tall brown-skin joker had tossed me against the wall.
He took a long look at me. It was like looking in a mirror. His deep down guilt cream puffed him and he grabbed me and squeezed me to him. I was stiff and tense in the stranger's arms, but I had looked in the mirror too when he came in, so I strung my arms limply about his neck.
When he hugged Mama, her face was toward me and stony, like back there with Henry. My father strutted about that hotel room boasting of his personal chef's job for Big Bill Thompson the mayor of Chicagoxxx.
He told Mama and me, "I am a changed man now. I have saved my money and now I really have something to offer my wife and son. Won't you come back to me and try again? I am older now, and I bitterly regret my mistakes of the past."
Like a black-widow spider spinning a web around her prey, Mama put up enough resistance to make him pitch himself into a sweatxxxi then agreed to go back to him.
My father's house was crammed with expensive furniture and art pieces. He had thousands of dollars invested in rich clothing and linens.xxxii
After a week, my hustler uncle brought Steve to visit us, and to case the lay out. My father bought the cousin angle and broke out his best cigars and cognac for the thieves. It was another week before they took him off.
Remember, at the time I had no idea as to what really was going to happen. I would learn the shocking truth only after we got to Milwaukee.
On that early evening when it happened Mama was jittery as we prepared to visit some close white friends of my father. I had a wonderful time getting acquainted with the host's children who were around my age. Too soon it was time to go home.
In my lifetime I have seen many degrees of shock and surprise on the human face. I have never seen on any face the traumatic disbelief and shock that was on my father's face when he unlocked the door and stepped into his completely empty house. His lips flapped mutely. He couldn't speak. Everything was gone, all the furniture and drapery, everything, from the percolator to the pictures on the wall, even my Mama's belongings.xxxiii
Mama stood there in the empty house clinging to him, comforting him, sobbing with real tears flowing down her cheeks. I guess she was crying in joy because the cross had come off so beautifully.
Mama missed her calling. She should have been a film actress.xxxiv With only a bit part, an Oscar a season would have been a lead-pipe cinch for her.
Mama told my father we would go to Indianapolis to friends until he could put another nest together.
When we got to Milwaukee by train, ninety miles away, Steve had rented a house. Every square inch of that house was filled with my father's things.xxxv
Those lovely things did us little good and brought no happiness. Steve, with his mania for craps, within weeks had sold everything, piece by piece, and lost it across the craps table.
Mama worked long hours as a cook, and Steve and I were alone quite often.
At these times he would say, "You little mother-fucker, you. I'm going to beat your mother-fucking ass. I am telling you, if you don't run away, I'm going to kill you."
He was just so cruel to me. My mother had bought me a little baby cat. I loved that kitten, and this man hated animals. One day the cat, being a baby cat, did his business on the kitchen floor.
Steve said, "Where is that little mother-fucker?"
The little kitten had hidden under the sofa. He grabbed that kitten and took it downstairs where there was a concrete wall. He grabbed it by the heels. I was standing (we lived on the second floor) looking down at him; he took the kitten and beat its brains out against that wall.
I remember, there was a park behind our house, concrete covered. There were some concrete steps. I sat there and I cried until I puked. All the while I kept saying like a litany, "I hate Mama! I hate Mama! I hate Mama!" And, "I hate Steve! I hate Steve! I hate him! I hate him!"
For many tortured years she would suffer her guilt. She had made that terrible decision on that long ago weekend.
I know my lousy old man deserved what happened to his goods. I know Mama got her revengexxxvi and it was sweet I am sure, but it was bitter for a kid like me to know that Mama was part of it.
Perhaps if Mama had kept that burglary cross a secret from me, in some tiny way I might have been stronger to fight off that pimping disease. I don't know, but somehow after that cross Mama just didn't seem like the same honest sweet Mama that I had prayed in church with back in Rockford.
I went to her grave the other day and told her for the hundredth time since her death, "Mama, it wasn't really your fault. You were a dumb country girl, you didn't understand. I was your first and only child. You couldn't have known how important Henry was to me."xxxvii
I choked up, stopped talking to her beneath the silent sod, and thought about Henry lying rotten, forgotten in his grave.xxxviii
Then, through my tight throat I said to Mama, "To you he was ugly, but Mama I swear to heaven he was so beautiful to me. I loved him Mama, I needed him. I wish you could have seen beyond his ugly black face and loved him a little and stayed with him. Mama, we could have been happy, our lives would have been different, but I don't blame you. Mama, I love you."xxxix
I paused looking up at the sky, hoped she was up there and could hear me, then I went on, "I just wish you were alive now, you would be so proud of me. I am not a lawyer as you always wanted me to be, but Mama, you have ...
~ fuck this dumb shit, I'm expunging the remainder of the vomit-inducing gunk ~
I had begun to play Steve's favorite game, craps, in the alleys after school.
Dangerously, I was frantic to sock it into every young girl weak enough to go for it. I had to run for my life one evening when an enraged father caught me on his back porch punching animal-like astraddle his daughter's head. I had become impatient with the unusual thickness of her maidenhead.xl———
- Check it out, dude's from Indiana! [↩]
- "Black church" nonsense of the Free Methodists, Wesleyan Methodists &cetera. You know, with the shaky "dancing" and the rest of the "under the influence" (of the Holy Spirit) bullshit. [↩]
- I can't tell if this is genuine recounting or simply chrome, put in to build commercial appeal in the early days of the "child abuse" meme. If I were politically involved I'd make a political call, which'd then (of course) become mandatory within my domain ; but as it is I don't particularly give a shit, here it can lay and wallow in its mystery.
That said, sexual manipulation of the small children in their care by nurses was very common before the war, because indeed, a blowjob will pacify a male at any age. [↩]
- But... when ? Six day weeks, twelve hours days... when ?! [↩]
- But... wait, and he was also paying her ?! [↩]
- Mama talks too much. [↩]
- This irritating pantsuit bullshit, with the attempts at appropriating words... being a man has utterly nothing to do with not fucking half-white waitresses on potato sacks, nor with putting up with overvoiced virgins from the boondocks. [↩]
- Hurr. [↩]
- Plate is here used in a meanwhile obsolete sense, as an contraction of "photographic plate". The idea being that she looked like one of those hussies in the rags. [↩]
- This shit is starting to sound Elliot-esque. [↩]
- For all his religious ambition and good kindness, Henry wasn't altogether all that sharp, was he. [↩]
- Nua cicat. [↩]
- This one-sentence paragraph business is starting to wear thin. I mean I get it, "book" written with an audience in mind, which "coincidentally" is black, which "doesn't mean anything" academically, but... still. [↩]
- Nua cicat!!! [↩]
- Oh. I thought he was a black angel. It took me some effort to imagine a sort of Bantu Gabriel, Alexandrine golden curly locks flowing on shoe-shined ebony. Now all that effort turns out to have been in vain ?!
- You mean, like the other one ? Like some not-as-tall, "good for nothing", "not a real man" dude in spats ? Who, perhaps, hadn't done what some yakkity bitch said he'd done, not quite exactly ? This perpetual victim that's her, perpetually surprised (not to mention victimized) "by events", and so on. Hm ?
This dude's mother's by far, by a good thick margin the only regrettable portion of his life. [↩]
- Da fuck, I thought that bitch was "lissom", just as I thought size 12 is where normal fare ends and specialty wares begin. How many lissom women do you know that gotta buy their dresses in special shops for... well... the not-so-lissom no mo' ? [↩]
- I thought he was the envy of most other "Negro" folk out there, his wife the president of whatever commissions... surely a preacher, an older woman, someone'd have been more than happy to fix him up with something. Neh ? Surely there had been offers, surely there were other people...
This story makes relatively very little sense so far, even by "Negro" standards of tigthness. [↩]
- Not much of a sight, in the darkness. [↩]
- No, he was just too dweeby to order her to. [↩]
- Check it out, dumb bitch still comes out sniffing roses.
He thinks it was -- he says it was so as to hear himself say it and therefore think it, even if for only a moment -- Maude that "Georgia"'d him, in 1921. It wasn't Maude. [↩]
- Now that's a point. [↩]
- Possibly the dumbest nonsense ever. So, all cards are dealt face up, players bet against each other on whether the face up card in front of the other guy gets matched (paired) before their own card is matched. That's all, rank and suit carry no importance, it's just... basically, baby's first steps to being a mechanic. [↩]
- That's another point, except for the part where... I dunno dood, a ten year old might've done something about it. Maybe. [↩]
- Fucking simps. It's true, he was "lucky" ; the rest of the world, however... not so much. [↩]
- The Model T was made 1908 to 1927 ; if he was 3 in 1921 then he'd be 10 in 1928 ; the Model T could've been just about brand new. Doesn't have to mean it also was, but anyways.
In any case, the price of the car when new was around $260, making the two-and-a-half grand the hussy supposedly eloped with a considerable fortune (contrary to what pimpster over there seems to intimate). [↩]
- Very perceptive, for a ten year old ; I suppose it's on account of all the time he had spent in classy joints up to that point. [↩]
- Actually... no, I don't get what he means. Unless, of course, he means Steve was also drab. But hey, what can I say, Steve could've been smarter, he could've conned an actual bankroll offa the hussy's husband by her offices, not a mere dozen car fleet's worth. [↩]
- Oh. [↩]
- 2nd term, 1927 to 1931. Not particularily popular with the Karen chorus on account of standing firmly on the side of light, and against their petty shenanigans (or rather, correctly perceiving "reformists" as the real criminals).
At the time the city was in the middle of a gang war (not to mention race riots), and Thompson actually debated two live rats (his chosen strawman version of his competition). [↩]
- Heh. [↩]
- Da fuck investment's a... linen. [↩]
- Wouldn't that have been a sight, to clean the house bare except for her shit. [↩]
- Honestly seems Mama lived her calling exactly. [↩]
- Ok, ok, Steve is fucking Negroballs-dumb. [↩]
- Um. [↩]
- Heh. Seriously, could we get past the fake-out homilies already ? I get it, I get it, the "reformist" aggenda was that "if Negro 'family life' was more like Victorian and less like Muslim it'd be much better -- for '''everyone''', in the limited sense of posing less of a challenge to our dumb shit". Reading USistani authors has this eerie similarity to reading Soviet-era "curageous" fuckwads, there's the same thickly caked nonsense, supposedly differently flavoured, but still palpably sprouted off the same deplorable cuntspiggots.
Not to mention the passage of time renders it all ridiculous -- isn't it great everyone in the USGistan is now wearing the hijab "for science", totallies not like those "barbaric" Arab women were wearing it "for religion" ? Cuz USGistani religion is "science", not religion, while Muslim science is "religion", not science, and so on and so fucking forth, buncha worthless, myopic retards. [↩]
- Well... ? [↩]
- Gotta play the simp to publish in the US, gotta play the commie to publish in the SU, gotta suck my cock and get the fuck lost, the lotta you. [↩]
- Don't you expect he'd have likely gotten shot ? I don't, but hey, you've got your own ideas. [↩]